Christmas Wish

Christmas Eve and the sky was threatening to snow.

Lester admitted to himself that he should be heading home as

he turned his beat up Honda civic into the parking lot of the

local watering hole. Lester, a blue collar worker with

Chenstar Inc., often frequented this particular bar on his

way home from work and several of the regulars called hello

as he came through the door. So what if it was Christmas

Eve, he just didn’t feel like going home right away and there

was no one there anyway.

Three beers into the evening, Lester was not too happy

with his life, and Christmas Eve historically made him

particularly cantankerous. He had always felt that something

was missing in his life and this time of year typically

brought these feelings closer to the surface. He generally

blamed this empty feelings on his childhood in the orphanage.

Othertimes he blamed the feeling on his poverty. Tonight,

looking into his sixth beer, he began to speculate that rich

people did not have this problem, especially not at

Christmas. Lester spent the evening lamenting all the things

he had never owned and all the people he had never met. He

was not happy when the barkeep said last call.

Trudging through the snow on the way to his car, an idea

struck Lester. He was just going to go see how all those

rich people spent Christmas Eve. The roads weren’t very good

and he wasn’t very sober at the time, but he managed to get

to Eastside where the really huge houses were. The blatant

display of multi-colored lights on all the houses, struck him

almost physically. The longer he drove the angrier he got.

Toward midnight, Lester came upon one house that stood

out from all the rest. Every straight edge of the house was

aglow with lines of tiny white lights. He drove past the

house, but for some reason those lights stuck in Lester’s

mind and without really thinking he turned back and pulled to

the side of the road and stopped the car across the house he

had seen. He sat in the car the longest time, just looking

at the house and thinking very heavy thoughts. He wondered

how these people were spending Christmas Eve.

Inside the house Stephen Wallace, of Wallace and Sons,

was also spending Christmas Eve alone. Stephen had long

since come to the conclusion that most people only tolerated

him because he was richer than God. He had spent his life

building his company, hoping to fill a gap he felt inside.

He had never had much luck at relating to people, as his ex

would attest, and he attributed this deficiency to his

childhood in an orphanage. His therapist had told him that

he was trying to compensate for his feeling of loneliness

with the security of money. Stephen had noted, with a

certain smugness, that the therapist had no trouble accepting

payment.

Stephen had decided to spend the evening with a cup of

Earl Grey tea, in front of the fire, curled up with a good

Louis Lamour book. Having lit the fire, and donned his

favorite smoking jacket, Stephen picked up his tea service

and headed for the living room.

Still sitting in his car, his judgment more than just a

bit clouded, Lester decided to go up and look in that window

and see what these folks were up to. Without thinking about

what he was doing, he headed across the snow choked street

and across the lawn to the house.

Inside the house, Stephen rounded the alcove wall and

happened to look out the window at the same instant Lester

looked up into the window, and for a split instant each man

was convinced that they are seeing their own reflections in

the window. Stephen and Lester are twins that had been

separated at birth. This is a common practice, at the time

of their adoption, since it is easier to adopt out single

children than it is to find homes for twins.

Lester standing in the snow looked up through the window

and saw his own face in a fine robe with a tea service in his

hands and a book under his arm. Stephen saw himself in

grubby clothes standing knee deep in snow, out in the

weather.

For an electrified instant they do not know if they are

seeing some sort of twisted reflection of themselves or

someone else.

When it occurred to them that they were facing strangers

Stephen ran back the alcove where the phone was and Lester

ran across the lawn and hid behind a hemlock. Both were

peeking around the edges, not quite sure what to do. Stephen

knew that he should call the police and Lester knew that he

should run, but curiosity had them both.

Both men were curious, both were afraid and neither knew

just what to do.

Stephen tried to think of a way to talk to this man

without risk. Lester wanted to see if the man in the house

was real.

Suddenly a delivery truck careened around the corner and

swerved on the icy road to miss Lester’s car. In slow motion

the huge vehicle jumped the sidewalk and crashed against the

short brick wall that separated Stephen’s yard from the

street. With a terrible screeching of metal against stone,

the truck came to rest against Stephen’s mailbox post.

Their fear forgotten, both Stephen and Lester ran to the

wrecked truck to see if they could help the driver. Lester

reached the truck first and climbed up into the cab. He

pulled the man, slumped over the wheel, into an upright

position and tried to talk to him. There was a rivulet of

blood trickling out of the truck driver’s mouth. Lester

shouted for Stephen to go to the house and call for an

ambulance and paramedics. In the darkness, both men worked

as a team and the paramedics told them later that their

combined effort was the only thing that had saved the truck

driver’s life.

As the wrecker pulled the truck from the mail post in

the breaking light of dawn, both Lester and Stephen regarded

each other and smiled.

“Can we go inside and put my fire to good use?” Stephen

asked.

“I believe I would like that,” Lester answered.

And you are gone

You flew East
and I went West
Reality is such a subjective place
sometimes Fantasy is Best

Fire and Rain
Fear and Pain
Fall from the Northern Skies
Past is all pretense
of lost goodbyes

I fly East
and You wonder West
Reality is such a speculative place
ofttimes Fantasy is Best

Tears and Pain
Fears caress
Lights across the Southern Skies
Lost is all pretense
of fond goodbyes

None know East
None went West
Reality is such a subjective place
sometimes Fantasy is Rest

Swirling Rain
Wind caress
Lost beneath the Southern Skies
And you are gone

Lady Writer

Ten thousand things
Left done and undone
The tea steams

The Lady writer is watching one of those hideous
Cat clocks
Where the tail is the pendulum
And the eyes shift back
And forth
Back
And forth
Back
And forth
It seemed like such a good idea at the time

The wane light of a coming day
barely wins a fight with the sheer curtains
Over the breakfast nook

She lift her instrument of self torture
She lifts the pen
Touches it to the journal . . .
The nib skips a bit
Then bites the page

The Boy With Bright Eyes ~ the Dream

The moon
Angel opens the curtains
then the bay window
The Moon
She lets the moon in

Crèmey alabaster light
Flows in through the open window
Gurgles and churns where it hits the floor
Flows in and around everything
Ebbs and swirls . . .

She sits in the window
her back to the room
Looking out on the misty night
And something is walking across the lawn
She turns and considers lighting a candle
Something has just cleared the foliage
And she can see how he moves

Her heart flutters like a dove
Has been released into the room
‘Oh God keep him from the door’
She knows that walk
She wants that walk
He had bright
beautiful eyes
And wings
Not like hers
not angel wings
Dragon wings

eva

there is a small girl in the mist, in the darkness, in the rain and i can tell that no one sees her.
her name is eva and she is too small and so . . . tiny.
i go over to her and her face splits into a mask of bone and fear, a horrible scream and she is gone.

so, i go again the next time it rains and she is there and she avoids making eye contact but when i move toward her she strikes at me and i am wounded, a horrible scream and she is gone.

so, the next time it rains my protector says, ‘don’t go, she will hurt you.’
and i go and this tiny little one is there
and she is angry and when she comes at me i do not block her, i take her into my heart
and she starts to eat the light there.
but then i remember i am not alone and a light grows in my heart, a blinding light like a shock wave and the tiny girl is confused.
she is tumbling in the light and i reach into the maelstrom and i reach across the distance
and my hand is all she can see so she grabs it. it is the grasp of a frighten child it is the grasp of death.
and i hold at the cost of my hand at the cost of my soul.
i hold because on a slip of paper written by my protector it says; ‘he that would give his soul for the protection of a child will not die.’ and so the light nourishes me and burns away our madness. we fall into a place where everything is light and nothing hurts anymore.
she is strangely calm and i can tell it never happens for her this way.
i can tell she is suddenly ok. . .and there, there are the others. her kin and they have come for her and she can see them now. she couldn’t see them before.
and its ok and i am allowed to return from the places from which only a few return and i am grateful for this chance, this golden wonderful chance.
i am tired.

Star Troupers

“All who love are damned
Those who love actors. . .
doubly so”

~ Draven Chandler, Character Actor, Thespian Star Troupe Initiative

Chapter One ~ the Company

I suppose that in every story there must be a dramatic question. For Instance, ‘Can a troupe of re-purposed metamorph assassins effectively bring Central Human culture to the backwater planets of the Inner-Rim?’ Some of the auxiliary questions could be: ‘Can they do this better than the Droid Theatre troupes on Central?’, ‘Can they do this without being shot from the sky?’, ‘Can they do this without killing each other after months of ship time?’, or perhaps, “Can they do this without picking a random star and sailing off into the Vasty-Void, never to be seen again?’
Of course there was always the question of “Would it be a good idea to get these actors away from the centers of civilization? And then there were those unsubstantiated rumors that our troupe was nothing more than cadre of shape-shifting spies for Central. But I digress.
~
As we emerged from Geodesic Space the Citizens Armada of Eljera made its presence known in the form of planetary gnats swarming the IGS Parnassus, our ship.
I was allowed on the bridge to speak with the aboriginals, provided, of course, I didn’t touch anything or distract any of the crew who were engaged in the ‘important’ tasks.
Dwight Ikewater (ship’s Go-captain) was not involved with any of the important activities as we plunged toward the primary star. He leaned against the communication console while I dialed in the lead hornet in the swarm.
The ruddy face of the wing captain rezzed into view on the display. Our escort was of a stocky build with very odd hand manners, weird exaggerated mouth and lip movements, sneaky slit eyes and a mop of unkempt hair.
Dwight whispered, “It seems hygiene is something of a lost art on the Rim.”
I said, “Salutation and regards from the IGS Parnassus. We are pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Now, just you hold back there a second, Mack.”
“Yes, I am holding.”
He seemed to be ruminating, then said, “We don’t need you here messing with our people.”
“Is there a problem?”
He said, “Yeah, we don’t want Central here.”
“OK. What do you suggest?”
“Turn around. . .”
Dwight nudged me aside and I slid out of the seat. Dwight paused a moment to be certain wing captain could see him. “Wing Captain, I need to speak with your commander.”
“Commander don’t need you. . .” and Dwight broke the link.
He called up several files and dialed two other numbers. The second one pulled in a man who looked very much like a retired Marine Corps commander, which in fact, he was.
Dwight smiled and the man on the screen did much the same. The man said, “How may I assist you?”
“Commander, it is my understanding that the Thespian Star Troupe Initiative has been negotiated with the regional government of the Eljera system. Imagine my concern when I am instructed to ‘turn around’ and go back.”
The Commander leaned closer to his pickup, “I’ve met you, haven’t I?”
“Commander, I am Dwight Ikewater, ship’s Go-captain for the IGS Parnassus.”
“Ikewater. . .? the New Gaelic Dragoons?”
“That was during the Fell Wars, sir. I served under General Marzet. I’m a pilot on civilian craft now.”
“Local color doesn’t care much for Central.”
“Sir, the Thespian Star Troupe Initiative is an NGO. They do not answer to Central. Here is Draven Chandler the alpha of the theater troupe we are transporting. He can explain it better than I.”
I slid into view, said, “Hello. We are a band of traveling actors with no political agenda. We won a grant to do Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar for the Inner-Rim and we would like to present a few shows for you before we head on to our next venue.”
“What did you do during the war?”
“Nothing sir, I am an actor.”
The Commander asked, “Metamorph?”
“Yes, not all actors are metamorphs, but all metamorphs are actors.”
“You a changeling? Show me something.”
“Don’t believe the chatter, morph-transformation takes several days and we can’t change things like our height and weight.”
“You have been briefed on local protocols?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Ikewater, I’ll reign in the hounds of war and we’ll pass approach vectors to your ship’s Stop-captain. Gentlemen, Eljera can be a nice place once you get to know it.” The screen went blank.
Anouk (ship’s Stop-captain) spoke up from her harness, “Ike? What’s the call?”
“Planet traffic control will be feeding you approach vectors in a moment.”
“Are we good, Ike?”
“Yeah, we’re going in.”
~
After the Fell Wars of 2347 it was decided that the Metamorph Assassin Corps, developed by all parties, might be reintegrated and re-purposed as actors. Hence, the Thespian Star Troupe Initiative was set up as a Non-governmental Organization and home for some very cranky metamorphs.
Shakespeare productions were often the most popular choices of our planners. To this end our trope was assigned the play Julius Caesar.
Why did it have to be the Julius Caesar? What in the Seven Heavens would a dirt-grubbing pack of Inner-Rim rubes in the Eljera system get out of one of Shakespeare’s Earth-history plays? I’ve always felt the play should have been named after my character, after all Brutus has four times as many lines as Caesar; and the central drama of the play my character’s struggle with the conflicting demands of honor, patriotism, and friendship. The Tragedy of Brutus, catchy, no?
On a totally different vector, I’ve often heard it said that nothing good ever comes from putting on the Scottish Play, but you have to love the characters. . . Of course there isn’t anything wrong with doing Brutus; what’s not to love? (Could’a been worse, could’a been Romeo and Juliet)

Chapter Two ~ the Incident in the Welcome-bay

Jennifer James (Troupe Director), Chy 9 (Alpha Droid & Stage Manager) and 01010111.0100001 (57.42, Fifty Seven Forty Two or Forty two {his nick-number}, Gaffer) and I were summoned into the Welcome-bay. The Eljera Land-captain seemed pleased to see us. As the alpha actor I was only there as a courtesy, but Forty-two, Chy and I had become friends on the voyage.
Fairly standard port protocols and lots of moderately interested local folk. . .
An overweight, light haired curmudgeon (the Elected President) surrounded by lilliputian sycophants wadded into the Welcome bay. Being a metamorph I immediately noticed the dissonance between everyone’s expression and their body language. These people were terrified.
The Bay-captain’s eyes told a tale of loss and horror within a face that sought to show happiness. Not for the first time I realized that every human living in a civilization is some kind of metamorph. Sad.
“What, ever, you, do. . . never play cards with him,” the Bay-captain interrupted my reverie.
“?”
“He’ll trump you every time and have your head if you point out the cards up his sleeve. No, he literally has cards up his sleeves. . .”
“I shall bow to your wisdom Captain. However, I’d thought Eljera to be a democracy.”
“Democracy doesn’t work if the population is too lazy and afraid to do anything to maintain it.”
“Yeah, history has a way of repeating itself. Perhaps our show might be something of a revival. . .”
And the Elected President spoke through a sound system attached to the back of one of his people, “This is the biggest crowd to meet the messengers of Central – Ever! Everybody, let’s show these guys just how – what are they doing again?” One of his circle turned the system off and there issued a short, silent, animated discussion. The President turned the system back on, “And I am so pleased that this William Shakesbaby fellow has come all this way to see how we do it on the Inner-Rim. By the way, all that stuff you heard about the problems with the gladiators on the moon of Nambia – that’s all fake. That will be all.” And the band blared out the recessional.

Chapter Three ~ the Show Must Go On

I love opening nights.
Earlier, as I ate lunch, I watched Crew Droids 27 thru 79 and the Droid Lifters 0 thru 21 assemble our set and stages. Director Jennifer decided to set the play in ancient Rome, with togas, short swords and Roman shields, fluted columns and Latin inscriptions. Unimaginative perhaps, but solid.
The synth-wool costumes are durable and kept us actors warm and safe when we’re covered with liters of wet blood, some for over half an hour. The set was open to the sky and the nights get a bit frosty on Eljera. I welcomed the warmth though I’ll never quite get used to the texture of the cloth.
Under a clouded sky the color of an old man’s urine, the mechanical-spiders wove their filament-fibers into the most incredibility detailed Roman architecture. . . I could watched those guys for hours. There is always a kind of music in their movements.
People from all over the Eljera system had arrived and taken seats surrounding our improvised thrust stage protruding from the lower half of the Parnassus. They were eating and snoozing while waiting for the show to start. Our arrival provided them with a holiday and they appeared to be very serious in their pursuit of leisure time.
Chy 9 was whispering through the tocsin in my ear, as it is prone to do to all those in any production, “Places, actor to places. . . Cue the smart-paint. . . Holografitic arrays to full and . . . Lights. Sound? Music on my mark. . . Start.”
ACT I, SCENE I. Rome. A street. The play opened with two tribunes finding the common-folk celebrating Julius Caesar’s triumphant return after stomping Pompey. The tribunes insulted the crowd for their change in loyalty from Pompey to Caesar and promptly attempted to end the festivities, not to mention the drinking and debauchery.
The audience, several hundred common-folk in their brown work-uniforms and maybe twenty group leaders in their gray suits, laughed hard and applauded and cheered frequently as the play progressed.
ACT I, SCENE II. A public place. Draven made his entrance as Brutus. Christopher (Julius Caesar), Thompson (Mark Antony), Phaedrae 437 (Soothsayer) take the stage and we’re nailing it.
Soothsayer ignored, check.
And out of nowhere, a forty-foot-long heavy lifter carrying a platform, entered from the back of the house. The Elected President and his sycophant suck-ups dressed in full regalia were prominently displayed for all to see. Commoners and management scrambled to get out from under the massive, flat-bottomed lifter but the platform was not lowered. Instead, it was lifted to a point just above the level of the stage so that the Elected President could look down on our little drama. Those who’d fled found places in the aisles and their attention drifted back to the stage.
Professionals all, we didn’t miss a beat.
That is until the President’s sound system blared some kind of message. It took Hazen Ames (Ship’s Engineer) about twenty seconds to mess with the electronics of the President’s sound system and all messages from the house were silenced. To his credit the President sat down and the play resumed.
Actors back on marks, everyone back on script and we stabbed Caesar.
Boom! Mayhem, pandemonium and melee. . . The Hounds of Chaos ran through the audience and Forty-two lifted me bodily from the stage, used its carapace to shield me while it carried me back into the ship’s cargo hatch. I ran back to the opening as other actors were likewise dragged to safety.
Parnassus is a civilian ship so it carries no heavy armament but its defense servos could be used to drive back a contingent of unarmored aggressors. I later found out both captains had anticipated some kind of incident. They had aimed the servos into the air and when the first round of servo-cannons fired a warning shot the crowd went silent. Then the mob collectively decided that it was best to leave the area of the ship by the nearest exits.
Everyone was running every-way and the launch warning-bells only contributed to the bedlam. The Droid Lifters and the Crew Droids were cutting the connecting fibers to the set. We were about to cut free and run for the sky.
The Elected President tried to step through the hatch. “They want to kill me. You guys have to save me.” Everyone in my area simply stopped to gape at the disheveled political bully as he tried to push his way into the ship.
“You’re that Raven guy. . .”
“Draven. . .”
“You Central guys can get me out of here.”
I laughed out loud. “I’m sorry, but there is really nothing we can do.” Forty-two was holding him and was not being very gentle in the process.
“You guys, assassins, metamorphs, one of you can change to look like me and be a decoy!”
“So, let me see f I have this right. You game the political system to get elected by a mob, make a total mess of the Eljera political system and now that the mob has turned on you, you think one of us should draw them off so that you can sneak out and save your sweat-soaked skin?”
“Yeah, you Central guys are so smart. . . “
“NO.” Forty-two picked the man up so that his feet no longer had traction.
“Don’t throw me out there with that bunch of losers!”
“Mister President. . .”
“Yes?”
“I believe that your concern for your people will mandate you to leave this ship and get any of your people three hundred meters away from the blast area of this ship. Three hundred meters. . .”
“I don’t care about these stinkin losers. . .”
“Stop, just stop.” and Forty-two carried the crazy demented Elected President out the hatch and returned empty handed.
The in-ship speaker paused the launch warning-bells, then Ikewater’s voice came through, “Draven? Are we ready to Lift?”
“Go-captain we are ready here.”
“Everyone to station. Strap in folks, this might be a bumpy ride.”

finis
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Dramatis Personæ of IGS Parnassus, Starship Troupe for the Julius Caesar Tour

Draven Chandler ~ Marcus Brutus
Christopher L. Irving ~ Julius Caesar
Thompson Driver ~ Mark Antony
Phaedrae 437 ~ Soothsayer
Catherine Miami ~ Portia
Anastasia Murova ~ Calpurnia – Caesar’s wife
Bella Ambra Panta ~ Portia – Brutus’ wife
Clovis Kanji ~ Cicero
Phlyn Austin ~ Cassius
Fredrick Arnold ~ Casca
Tykit Merriweather ~ Lepidus/Cinna
Aeon Orlando ~ Titinius/ Metellus Cimber/ Cinna the Poet
Zippo Leipzig ~ Lucius/Young Cato
Jon Richardson ~ Messala/ Cicero
Katy Stevens ~ Calpurnia
Droid Lifters 0 – 21 ~ Stage Crew
Jennifer James ~ Director (keeper of the Kill-codes)
Chy 9 ~ Alpha Droid & Stage Manager
01010111.0100001 ~ Gaffer (5742, Fifty seven forty two – Forty-two – nick-number)
Dwight Ikewater ~ Ship’s Go-captain
Anouk ~ Ship’s Stop-captain
Alexei Leonard ~ Ship’s Physician
Hazen Ames ~ Ship’s Engineer (agent for Central)
Crew Droids 27 – 79 ~ Crew of IGS Parnassus